Monday, December 29, 2008

The Thaw and the Mess Thereafter

It has been crazy in Northern Indiana. It was about 60 degrees this weekend, and all our beautiful snow and the beautiful, but dangerous, ice is gone. What was left behind was a huge mess! It is amazing how much that winter blanket covered! So this weekend was cleanup time in the pasture. Some of it was still immovable frozen objects, but there was plenty that had thawed. I believe our two horses can "deposit" about a wheelbarrow full each day onto the pasture. We will absolutely get hit with more snow and ice this winter, so the pasture is cleared for Round 2!!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ice Capades

We have been hit with just about everything in Northwest Indiana this Christmas week -- snow, rain, sleet, and ice. The temperatures have ranged from around zero to in the 30's. As a result, the outdoors is like one huge ice skating rink! You could train for the Winter Olympics or the Chicago Blackhawks out there! We were hoping to get some riding in during this long holiday weekend, but it is too dangerous. We don't want to chance one of "the girls" falling and injuring herself. And, Zora has a history of not being the most sure-footed animal around! In fact, all of our animals were having a problem this morning. When I let the chickens out, they slipped and slid their way down the coop ramp. Sonya (the female cat), ever the Princess, stayed on the deck, watching everyone else trying to negotiate the ice, waiting for someone to open the door so she could come back inside and lay on a pillow. Simo (our male cat) looked so funny running around and having his legs slip out from under him! Even the goats had a problem, and they are the climbers who generally can walk on anything. We live down a long gravel road that we call "the lane." On the weekends and days off, we take the almost 1/4 mile walk down the lane and out to the main paved road near our house to get the newspapers and mail. The goats love to take that walk with us, so we bring them along. Today they were stepping very carefully on the small hills of the lane, and had their moments of slipping around. It was quite the adventure, but we got the newspapers and mail without any of the four of us falling. If you could see our situation, you could appreciate what an accomplishment that was! We are hoping for warmer temperatures and a thaw so we can ride this weekend.......

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Coat for Marco

It is really cold here in LaPorte County Indiana right now. Our winter has come on early and strong. Our poor little LaMancha goat, Marco, is really not suited for this weather. Misho, the African Boar goat, is really furry and fat, so he is OK. But Marco has thinner hair, and not as much body fat, so he has more trouble when the temps drop. We have felt sorry for him, as he literally shivers in the cold, so we bought a dog coat for him the first winter he was with us. The dog coat doesn't really work for him anymore -- he has outgrown it, plus it keeps coming off. The velcro closures are not "goat proof" and using pins did not work either. So last week we bought him a sheep blanket, and it is just what he needed. I think he looks rather handsome in it!

When the temperatures fall below 15F, we put everyone in for the night. Marco stays in the stall with Divna, and Misho bunks with Zora. They sort of partnered themselves up like this -- at mealtimes when we feed them in the stalls, this is how they pair up, so we do the same for the sleeping arrangements. Marco and Divna seem to be buddies -- they hang out together in the pasture, and seem to like being around each other.

I am posting a photo of Marco in his coat......The things we do for our animals! But they are worth it, aren't they?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

At a Snail's Pace

Thanksgiving was over....we had everything back to normal and decided to go for a ride. On Saturday it was a ride "as usual." We went to the Dunes and had a great ride -- partly walking, mostly going a bit faster (running sometimes), and it was great. The Dunes looked different since our last ride there in the fall; more leaves down, a farther view, but beautiful in a different way. The trails there will be closed to horseback riding and open to cross-country skiers soon, so we wanted to have "one last fling" so to speak.

Sunday we decided to take the trails near our house. Zora could use some discipline, so we had Divna in the lead, with Zora following. It was amazing! We actually walked through the trails of Otis -- something that doesn't happen very often. With Divna in the lead, Zora kept pace and stayed behind, walking the entire time. It was not easy for her, but she did it. Quite a different experience, seeing everything at a slower pace. You can really see everything....but it is a bit colder! There is something to be said for the warmth of exciting riding in helps keep the body temp up!

It really boils down to the fact that no matter when you ride, the temperature in which you ride, the people you ride with, how you ride, or where you ride, the most important thing is that you RIDE! It is one of God's greatest pleasures on this Earth.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Zora the Supermodel

We are excited about the new signs for our real estate business. John took a great photo of Zora, and we decided to use it for our advertising. She is very photogenic.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Well, yesterday was Thanksgiving. We had a great day. John's bother Alex was here, his wife Cindy, and Cindy's parents and her sister, Janet. We cooked and laughed and spoiled the animals--they got lots of treats and people to pet them. We have a couple of days off now. The machine shop I work for is closed until Monday, and John is taking a break from our real estate business, and promoting equestrian properties. We hope to ride this weekend.....tomorrow and Sunday. Thursday was spent with the family, today was spent recovering and cleaning up, so tomorrow is riding time!! Can't wait.......

Monday, November 17, 2008

Something Different

We waited too long to order our hay for the winter. Our regular supplier did not have any left by the time we called. That poses a real problem, because it seems it is tough to find people with hay anymore -- especially someone with affordable hay. So we started calling all the other contacts we had, and were not having much luck. It was beginning to feel like a crisis. A friend at work suggested I call the office for the County Fair. A great idea! I called the fair office and the county extension office and got some additional names for our list. From those names, we found someone who was not too far away, and had hay left. Perfect. We orderd 150 bales -- picked up 75 on Saturday, and will pick up the remaining 75 next Saturday, weather permitting.

A really exciting way to spend a Saturday night is hoisting 75 bales of hay up into a barn and stacking them!!!

So on Sunday, we decided to do something different. It was a bit chilly outside, and a light snow was falling -- the first snow we have seen this season. We were going to go check out the paths thru the woods to see if we needed to do any clearing before our next ride. As we walked off, Zora came to the fence and called out -- a high pitched whinny. We could tell she wanted to go with us. She must have been tired of being in the pasture. So we went back and haltered her and Divna for a walk. Then feeling guilty about leaving the goats alone we decided, "What the heck" and took them as well. I really wish I had taken the time to go and get my camera. We must have been a sight, the six of us walking through the woods with a gentle snow falling!

As always, anytime we are with the animals it is interesting. Nothing is ever routine. Even if you ride the same trails time after time, something unique always happens. This walk was no different. The goats were excited, and a little afraid, which makes them walk very close to you for protection. That is code for "constantly underfoot." The horses were jazzed up -- the cool weather, the snow, they love that stuff. Had we been riding it would have been a wild time. So leading them was a challenge. But I think they all enjoyed it, and John and I got some exercise, and the neighbors must have had a laugh at the sight of us!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Remembering last year.....

My mind keeps going back to this time last year......

We were really in a difficult spot last year. We took a vacation to Europe to visit our "daughters" from the foreign exchange student programs. It seemed like a good idea when we planned the trip in the spring of 2007, but it was quite a different story by the time October rolled around. We really wanted to see the two of them -- Lydia, our girl from Italy who was with us in 2001; and Marie, our girl from Germany who was with us in 2005. But we are in real estate, and the market started taking a downturn in 2007. By the time we left for Rome, real estate was really suffering. Also, we had been going through an ordeal with Divna's Moon Blindness/Glaucoma, which had been taking a turn for the worse for the past 2-3 months. But we got to see the two of our girls in Europe, and it was great.

When we got home, we took a ride to re-connect with our horses, whom we had not seen in three weeks. We got a little carried away. The horses were really into the ride, and we were really into the ride, and I guess we just all four got caught up in the excitement, which manifested itself into a race down the abandoned railroad line. We were on the farthest leg of the railroad line -- the part where the path is really wide and clear. Well, clear except for the mudpuddles everywhere from a recent rain.

For once Divna and I were ahead -- this almost never happens. Zora is so fast she outpaces every horse we've ever been with even at a walk. But this time, we were in the lead. That does not sit right with either John or Zora, so when they saw an opportunity to pass us up (even though it was straight through a mudpuddle) they took it.

I hear John make an involuntary sound -- a crying out, so to speak. I looked over my shoulder and saw him and Zora laying on the ground, and I just knew he broke something. Divna and I immediately went back. Zora was up and walking around, munching on whatever was on the side of the path. Thankfully she was fine. John got up and said he was fine, and I asked "What did you break?" He said that he was OK. Seems the ground under that mudpuddle took a bit of a dip, and Zora lost her footing. They both fell. He said he just hit the ground hard, but he couldn't get back in the saddle. Lifting his arm bothered him quite a bit.

So we start the 3+ mile walk back home.

Finally, he put his hand under his shirt and felt the broken collar bone. We knew right then that things were going to be pretty strange for the next few weeks. Turns out he pretty much shattered the collar bone. Had to have surgery, they put in a plate and screws to hold the whole situation together. It was a real ordeal for him.

Thankfully everything has worked out, though it was really tricky for a while. Being self-employed, our health insurance wasn't the greatest. In addition to huge vet bills for Divna's eye situation, we were looking at a healthy sum for John's surgery and treatment. And did I mention the real estate market had taken a turn for the worse? But we got through that tough time, and John is now more focused on developing the equestrian property area of our business, and I am doing some accounting work.

Thank God Zora didn't get hurt!!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Trails of Otis

We are fortunate enough to have plenty of riding trails right where we live. We do not have to trailer our horses to take a nice ride. There is an abandoned railroad line that goes for about four miles south of us -- it leads to a park where there are riding trails. Also, the area to the north is mostly wooded with some really nice trails, and owned by other horse-friendly residents of Otis. So we can ride on neighbors' property as well.

We took the railroad line last weekend, and it was really great. The weather has been great for this time of year -- warm, but not too warm.....perfect for riding. It was one of those days when I felt completely comfortable in the saddle. Divna always seemed to have the right lead, and the ride was smooth. We were just in synch. Sometimes it happens like that, and when it does it is so enjoyable. Talk about the perfect stress-reliever! Nothing in the world exists except the ride -- the movement of the horse, the beauty of the outdoors, the freshness of the air, and that great feeling of being connected to nature. It is my favorite thing to do. Great for the mental health!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Feeding Time

Our animals can tell time. I am sure any other horse-owner would say the same thing. They know when it is feeding time. John does the morning feeding, I do the evening. When I walk outside at 5:30p, they are all standing up at the front of the pasture by the gate -- Zora hangs her big head over the fence, and the goat-boys are usually standing on their back legs with their front feet on the gate. Divna, being a little more reserved, hangs back a bit, but is looking at the house all the same.

As I approach the barn, they all vocalize their impatience. Then the ritual begins....I talk to all of them as I put grain the horses' buckets and goats' bowls. What happens next must be done by strict adherence to the order of the established steps. First, Marco (the black goat) must be hooked with a lead to his spot on the fence. Then Misho (the white goat). Tethering Misho first would be inviting trouble -- Marco, knowing Misho cannot get away, would just terrorize the poor white goat. Generally they get along great, but at feeding time, all bets are off. Plus, Marco is an opportunist.

Then, its back in the barn for the feed buckets/bowls. Zora must be fed first. As the dominant animal in our group, she demands this respect. Her bowl goes into her stall, then I must step outside for Divna's "show." Even though Divna has been up near the front of the pasture with the others awaiting dinnertime, she always ends up way downfield. I believe she does this for a reason. She wants to make her dramatic entrance. I have to step outside and call her. With a toss of her head, she comes running......almost full speed, with her mane flying. She gives a few more tosses of the head, and does some fancy footwork. She practically slides into her stall like a baseball player sliding into home. She starts chewing even before her head is in the bucket. She is quite the character!!!

The goats finish eating grain first, but remain tethered until the horses are finished. Marco will try to steal food from almost everyone -- the other goat and Divna. He knows better than to try it with Zora! The hay goes out into the feeder while they are all busy with grain. Once Zora leaves her stall and heads toward the hay feeder, it is safe to release the goats -- Misho first, then Marco. Sometimes I stand in Divna's stall with her if she has not yet finished her grain to protect her from Zora and Marco. Funny, but even though Zora is dominant, she respects me. If I am in Divna's stall, she will not take her grain....if I am not there, then Divna doesn't get her last few bites!

We developed this system over many chaotic feedings -- this is the method that works. It is nice to have peace in the barnyard! I love feeding them, talking to them, and being around them. Feeding time is my favorite time of day.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Brown County

We took our first trip to Brown County with the horses this week. Actually, it was the second trip for Zora -- she had been there when she was about 2 years old with the trainer we hired. Everything we had heard about the trails there is true. The riding is fabulous. We wish we had a couple more days at least, but considering our "adventure" in getting there, we are lucky things worked out as well as they did.

We had planned and prepared for the trip for weeks. I had to work 1/2 day the day we left, and of course you never get going as quickly as you think you will. With the sun setting so early, we were anxious to get there to set up camp in the daylight. So after leaving an hour or so later than expected, we got stopped by a train moving at a snail's pace in LaCrosse that slowed us down even more. Then, just before we got to the park, the truck started to act up. The battery light kept coming on. We saw a small brown sign directing us to the horseman's camp (7 miles, so it said), so we followed it. All the way down that two-lane narrow, winding, hilly road the truck started getting worse and worse -- lights fading, power failing. When we got to a "T" in the road with no directional sign as to which way to go to the camp, we knew we had a problem. Our only choice was to go back out to the main road, find a gas station or someplace where we could ask for directions. We did, and started back down that winding road. Our luck ran out on a particularly winding stretch of the road -- the truck died completely! No lights, no power, nothing. All I could think of was someone crashing into the back of us and killing our horses. So I got out to flag people around us. Luckily, the people down there are very nice and helpful. We had quite a few stop to try to help us. A young couple dressed in camoflauge with their faces marked up with green and brown paint stopped and gave us a jump. I asked them if they were in the Army, and they looked at me like I was from Mars. Then it dawned on me what was going on -- "are you hunters?" I asked, and sure enough that was it. They were kind enough to keep giving us jumps until we got to a school where we could pull the truck over into a grassy area. Then a mechanic stopped and assesed our situation. He felt it was the alternator, which he was capable of replacing. He gave us his phone number, and asked us to call him if we needed him to pick up athe part and come and install it. He helped us get to the campground (which is a right turn at the "T"), which took more jumps. At the campground, a DNR guy helped us get to the campsite, with a few more jumps. It was really stressful.

Needless to say, we did not get to ride that first evening. We did get camp set up, and had something to eat. It was a really cold night in the tent.

The next morning we met some of our neighbors who were really helpful. We called the park office, they recommended a local repair shop. The truck got towed away to be repaired and returned later that day. Our camping neighbors told us that on the way down, the spare tire under their truck caught fire somehow -- they were going down the highway with flames coming out of the bottom of their truck! So it just must have been the time for strange stuff like that to happen. These were really nice people from northeast Indiana, and we really enjoyed their company. We talked quite a bit and had some cold refreshments together. They had 2 beautiful Tennesee Walking Horses -- one of them a champaigne colored gelding, the other could have passed for Zora's brother.

We did some great riding the next day. It is so beautiful there, and the trails are so nice. There is something for everyone -- the big wide, ride side-by-side trails, and the narrow, single file trails with a bit more of a challenge. It was really nice. But, we had to be mindful of the time, because our truck was to be returned that afternoon, so we did not get to explore as many trails as we had hoped. After going back to camp and getting the truck situation finalized, we went out again for another shorter ride before dark.

We did not have to check out unil 2p the next day, so we figured we could take a morning ride. We got everything packed up that evening to make it easier for the next day. The forecast said there was a 50% chance of rain, so we prepared for that as well. We had our coffee and some other things we thought we'd need in the tent with us. We felt we were covered. However, nature had other plans. That night, it started raining -- torrential type raining. All of the stuff in our tent was touching the sides, which is not a good thing. We woke up to a flood in our tent and everything was wet -- shoes, clothes, bedding. Needless to say, we threw everything in the truck and got out of there as fast as possible.

In spite of our semi-bad luck, we really want to go back. It is just so great to be around that many horse people, and I really enjoy looking at all the gorgeous horses. We saw quite a few mules (!!) and there were ponies with carts and even miniature horses. It was also a treat to look at all the great trailers with living quarters! Some people have some pretty impressive set-ups! John and I were the only ones there roughing it in a tent!!!

We do plan to go back -- the riding is so nice that we just have to experience it again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Riding in the Indiana Dunes

Sunday was a beautiful day, so we took "The Girls" (Zora and Divna) to the Indiana Dunes State Park. We are really fortunate, because the park is so close, and the trails are really nice. It is so easy to just pop over there for a ride -- whether you have all day or only a couple of hours to ride, it is worth the short drive.

It was a perfect day. Warm, but not too warm, and with the leaves turning colors it was really pretty. Some of the low spots in the woods were still filled with water from the recent deluge, and there were red leaves floating on the water. The trails were not too wet, though. We had to go through water one time, and there were a couple of muddy spots, but nothing unmanageable.

Of course, Zora really enjoyed herself, as always. She loves to stretch her legs and get her exercise in. This is all just a politically correct way of saying that she likes to run like a bat out of hell. Divna keeps up with her most of the time, but she is lot more calm. Divna does have her quirks, though. She doesn't like to walk on rocks, or in deep sand. So out at the Dunes, she stays pretty close to the side of the trail where the ground is more firm. I have to keep her in the center of the trail when trees are close to the edge, and on Sunday I was a little too lax in one spot and ended up banging my knee on a tree. Just a bruise, no big deal. But something always happens when you are out on the trail, right? As long as no one ends up in surgery, which happened to us one time, but that is a story for another posting.

Anyone who hasn't tried the trails at the Dunes should plan on it. It is really easy to find -- I would be happy to provide directions. It's a great way to spend some time with your horse.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

We're started this blog to chat with horse lovers in NW Indiana. We have two Tennessee Walker mares named Zora and Divna. Those are Serbian names meaning "dawn" and "beautiful." We also have a couple of nitwit goats with Serbian names, but trust us, you don't want to bother with them.

We plan to share our experiences with all horse lovers. We have a few interesting stories to tell in coming blogs, including some serious medical conditions we've had to deal with, both to the horses and the riders who sometimes go a little too fast and fall a little too hard.

Look forward to talking with you.

Riding & living w/Tennessee Walkers in NW Indiana

Zora is the goofball with her lead rope over her head. Divna is the one-eyed horse on the left.